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The Dan Severn interview

Back in the year of 2007 I made a Dan Severn music video.

 

He had been one of my favorite wrestlers for years. Ever since I saw him on the cover of Inside Wrestling after winning UFC 5 I think. He did it as NWA champion at the time and I thought that was the greatest thing ever. I was 15 and felt validated as a wrestling fan.

Well I found out that Mr.Severn had a website. I e-mailed him the video and he was really appreciative that I took the time to make it and put it on his website. The video has about 30,000 views on youtube alone and that's not counting my previous account.

Last year in an attempt to generate interest in my blog. I asked if I could interview him. I was just expecting to send a list of questions thru email. Instead he gives me his phone number. I could not pass up a chance like this. So I got a tape recorder and did it over speaker phone so the audio quality is far from perfect. Which is why a transcription never turned up. I got half of it done. Now you can understand the interview. Its just I wanted to make sure the transcribing was as close to perfect as possible.

He talked to me for about thirty minutes after I stopped recording. This was a great experience.

Download it here.

Victor Rodgers: My first question is how did you make the transition from amateur wrestling to professional wrestling?

Dan Severn: It was probably harder for me to make the transition from amateur wrestler to professional wrestler than I did from professional wrestler to No Holds Barred cage fighter, that was pretty easy for me because my life has been a life of competition. So doing that portion was easy The hard part was going from amateur wrestler to professional wrestler.

Victor: How did you learn about UFC?

Dan Severn:The UFC basically, I lived in Coldwater, Michigan at that same time. That was the fall of 91. It was so old it did not have the pay per view capabilities. This was basically brought to my attention by a friend of mine in the Detroit area. Who told me "Dan this is something you should think about doing." And that's kinda how I started to pursue it.

Victor: Were there any parts of pro wrestling you had difficultly adapting to?

Severn: Um I would say the part I had difficulty with for a long period of time. Was I would be more nervous doing a professional wrestling match as opposed to a no holds barred or mixed martial arts match. Because going out there in a professinal wrestling match you are putting your body into someone else's hands. If they screw up, not only do they get hurt but you get hurt. That was hard for me to swallow at times.

Victor: How were the early UFC owners to deal with?

Severn: You have to realize UFC has had three changes of ownership and I have dealt with all three. I probably got along best with the New York based Semaphore Entertainment Group.

Victor: When was the last time you dealt with UFC?

Severn: I had been out to one of the events in just the past year is the most recent thing I've been involved with and periodic emails, phone calls so I can help other athletes transition.

Victor: When did you learn you were going to become NWA World Champion?

Severn: I won that, I believe it was Smokey Mountain wrestling that was led up by.  Jim Cornette was basically the gentlemen that was heading up Smokey Mountain. It was some time in '94 because '95 was when I won my first UFC, and Dennis Corruluzo brought the belt, the NWA belt out. It was a somewhat touchy subject with the UFC because of the fact I was a professional wrestling champion and having the belt brought there in a contest where we were promoting the violence, the no rules and no weight classes. So they were a little bit torn on that because of what I accomplished when I won UFC IV.

Victor: I remember back in 95 seeing you on the cover of Inside wrestling. You became one of my favorite wrestlers before I could ever see you on TV.

Severn: Well I appreciate that. I'm like a throwback to days gone by is really what I am. A lot of people have stated I should of been wrestling with the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Lou Thesz and those kind of individuals.

Victor: That's what I was telling a friend, watching your matches it does not look like you are putting on a show but that you are trying to win.

Severn: Yes yeah exactly. I only wish I had been brought into the professional wrestling business at another time era. The first time I met Lou Thesz in Japan. He really was watching a great deal. He really was watching the scientific, mechanical way I did things and created leverage. It was actually quite a honor that it was Lou Thesz who presented me with my very own NWA title belt at one of the Cauliflower Alley banquets for all I did for the organization and bringing a lot of recognition to professional wrestling. Because I was kinda like that first professional wrestler who crossed back over from no holds barred to professional wrestling. Before your Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley and that kinda stuff.

Victor: Do you think Brock Lesnar gets unfairly bashed for being a former WWE champion?

Severn: You know I don't think he will really be bashed for it. You'll always have certain naysayers in debates. What he accomplishes in the MMA world is more or less what he will be recognized for.

Victor: When you were NWA champion how did you get your bookings? Did they pick them for you pr did you find your own and run it by them?

Severn: Well basically They made the bookings for me upon availability of me because I was still doing a lot of things beside professional wrestling. But they wanted to use the status I had and the notoriety and that was kind of a hard thing because I was still doing amateur wrestling clinics and amateur wrestling matches.

Victor: What lead to you being booked on the King of the Deathmatch card vs Tarzan Goto?  Was this your first time working in a hardcore match?

Severn: Yes, I had never been involved in something quite that bizarre. I've been on a few shows where I see that kind of stuff taking place. That's a tough match to follow now.Because you know people see fluorescent bulbs bashed over peoples heads, and getting hit with the barbwire bats. I'm thinking "Now how are we suppose to follow that and just give them wrestling?"  It seems thats just a whole different entity in itself.I did not know years later that would be listed as one of the most coveted highlights there for myself, being involved with a hardcore match.

Victor: I remember looking for the match for years after seeing a picture in Pro Wrestling Illustrated. I thought it was a great match.

Severn: It was certainly a bloody match [Laughs].

Victor: I really enjoyed the contrast of styles.

Severn: It wasn't simply a contrast of styles. We were out there dueling with chairs at one point y'know.

Victor: You said that UFC had a problem when Dennis Coraluzzo brought the NWA title out on a UFC pay per view. When did they first find out about it?

Severn: Oh I don't know, I mean basically I did not want to throw a surprise at them.It was brought to their attention and they had some apprehension. I told them the story about it. I said that I was gonna have one of my entourage, that one of the NWA promoters (the head promoter)  carrying the belt in my entourage.They had no problem with it then. I mean I'm not trying to exploit things in a bad way, I'm trying to exploit it in a good way.

Victor: My editor has some questions he wanted me to ask. He wanted me to ask you about your second fight with Ken Shamrock. I remember hearing you say it did not get a good reaction.

Severn: A lot of people did not like that match. I think it was even chronicled in different books as one of the worst matches in UFC history. At that time for being the marquee match it did not produce. But in my own personal opinion, it was  the most well thought out, psychological match ever in UFC. To know that it had a 10,000 seat set out. I think one of the biggest at the time. And I'm wagering the crowd not liking this match, and they start booing. They start doing everything I hoped they would do. Because Shamrock at that point in time was a counter fighter. As you attack and he counter attacks you. And I thought if I do the exact same thing and circle and basically do what he is doing, nothing. The crowd is going to get rather restless, and they would start to boo and they end up booing and even throw garbage in the cage.

The referee stops the match, pushed us back to restart. He is even cussin' at us, saying if you came to fight blankity blank, then fight by god. He pushed me back. I said to him, John just take your shirt off and we will make it a three way death match, I could care less. I will never let the crowd rule me. There is a lot of armchair quarterbacks.That like to sit there and bark stuff like that. Climb inside the cage with me. Look across from me right there and when he says "Lets get it on" they close that door and I move towards him, I know I will see a puddle at his feet.
The only thing is I kinda went on a tangent right there. I take a great deal of pride in what I've done and what I've accomplished. As far as im concerned there is not another human being alive and or dead who has accomplished what I have accomplished in the professional wrestling, mixed martial arts/no holds barred or amateur wrestling circuits. In all three areas I have been very successful and the fact is I'm lifetime chemical free. I started it at a very date in life. WWF oldest rookie ever at forty years of age.B  asically started a cage fighting career at 36 getting ready to turn 37. Who starts a career at that age? The world record was seven title belts. I have ever 18 or 19 right now. If you can find something else that can have any claim. Ive done as many as seventeen amateur wrestling matches in one day. Two different age groups, three weight classes per age group. Winning six gold medals, seventeen matches. Find me anybody else who can come close to what I have done. I legitimately have over a hundred state and national championships or records. No one else has done what I have done, ever.

Victor: It has to be tough because people are booing but this is a real fight. You're trying to win not put on a show for anybody.

Severn: Oh exactly, the bottom line is what are they going to remember, they are going to remember who won. They did change the rules about the time element. I guarantee if you change the element of time and lets face it, it did have to change for UFC, Mixed Martial Arts and all sorts of things to even continue to exist. The No Holds Barred era is gone. its just in the archives of history of now. But people I say to underline the fact they try to bury it like it never existed. When by the same token I think they {the current UFC ownership) should embrace it saying this is where we began and this where we evolved to. and recognize people from the past like a Don Frye, Marco Ruas, Steve Jennum, these people all did something for this sport and nobody knows who they are.

Victor: when were you first approached by the World Wrestling Federation?

Severn: I believe that was around 97 if I remember correctly. They approached both both Ken Shamrock and myself at about the same time. Ken went to work with them one year before I did. He put all his eggs into one basket.He worked exclusively for the WWF. I negotiated non exclusivity because I was working for the NWA. Because there was like 35 promoters in the NWA alone that I was working for at different times. On top of working for the WWF. I had a modified contract I did not work the full 187 dates like everybody else did. I basically negotiated sixty dates on an annual basis.

Victor: I can't think of anybody else given a deal like that. It really shows how in demand you were.

Severn: By the same token nothing ever materialized out of it. There are things Victor I wish I had done differently in my career.  But you can't whatever you did you did. The WWF did not know how to utilize me. They were afraid I think in a lot of ways to put any attention on me. Or to give me any kind push. Because they had no control elements over me. But at the same token I don't think they knew what kind of person I was to work with. I'm still very much old school, I was like that even in the young end of my career. A handshake and your word should mean something. Its pretty much a lost commodity these days. Half the time I don't know if I'm running a training school or a grooming school for young men. Teach them how to conduct themselves in a better manner. How to speak properly. You shake another man's hand and you look him in the eye. These are things that are lost.

Victor: Why were you split from Jim Cornette so soon? I though you two were a good pairing.

Severn: Really Jim had lots of good ideas. He was so frustrated with the creative team. He said "They do not have a clue what to do with you.You are the most marketable person they have." He said "You should just go out there" and he had some corny ideas but he went "You should just carry a wheelbarrow full of belts and dump them in the ring and dismantle guys." Before there was a Goldberg he was pitching that idea.

Victor: That's what I think whenever I see your old matches. You should of just tore guys apart then wrestled somebody like Austin.

Severn: Well yeah but I was not part of the creative team.  Within weeks of being in the WWF Jim came up to me and said "I don't know what you are doing but keep it up. All the boys are nervous around you.They don't know how to take you." I told him "Jim I know what professional wrestling is all about. I'm here to do what they do." Jim Says "They know you can turn fantasy into reality and that scares them."

Victor: Back in 1998 on RAW there was a segment where HHH was mad and issued an open challenge and you came out. Jim Cornette is trying to stop you and you choke him out so nothing happened. Was that suppose to go anywhere?

Severn: Honestly Victor, I don't even remember that item right there. Are you sure that was me?

Victor: Oh I am very definite. Because I remember there was this match between DOA and New Age Outlaws. The Outlaws lost and he made this challenge saying "Nobody kills my buzz. I want somebody to come out here, so I can kick their ass." Your music hits and Cornette is trying to stop you from going out there. You end up beating him up and leaving. Always wondered if it would lead to a match or something, but I guess not.

Severn: Yeah I just chalk it up to they did not have controlling elements over me, and I was not a member of their chap stick club. Its ironic Jim asked me what I was doing to make the boys nervous and I Told him "Jim, I'm just sitting back and watching theater unfold around me." He says "What do you mean by theater?" I say "What is professional wrestling? It is a heavy political motivated type industry. Why does this guy win and this guy lose. Most of it is because so called stars are lobbying."  So I Just fondly refer to them as the chap stick club. It was a few years later old Vince came out with the "Kiss my ass club". That was what the whole chap stick club was about. Kissing Vince's ass or all the agents or the creative team. Vince Russo was one of the worst.

Victor: I Just associate him with that last year of WCW putting him all over the TV.  How do you feel about that, when the booker puts himself on TV?

Severn: I dunno, I see it on the independent scene all the time. The promoter who also wants to be the current champion.Then you have people on the creative team wanting to put themselves on TV. It makes sense to have Vince (McMahon) in the mix.  But Vince Russo never should of been in there.

Victor: One thing I as wondering about was how come you and Ken Shamrock never had a match on pay per view. I mean in wrestling.

Severn: I dunno. Its one of the things the WWF dropped the ball on. I had beat Ken once and Ken had beat me once. So this would be the rubber match. Gave them something to build on. I have talked to Ken's representatives. He has agreed to do match number three with me. We would have done it by now. But Ken had tested positive for steroids I dunno how many months back and had a one year suspension.

Victor: So you are planning on doing a MMA fight with Ken Shamrock soon?

Severn: Oh yeah yeah exactly. Its a part of my retirement tour. I have other matches, Their are half a dozen other matches I would like to materialize before I call it quits.

Victor: Do you have a set date for when you want to retire?

Severn: Um, no, I'm  not sure. Somewhere in two or three years I should be out of it.  It all depends; if they start a Masters' division, I might stick around even longer.